Four best defensive lineman fits for 49ers early in NFL draft

Four best defensive lineman fits for 49ers early in NFL draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The 49ers made quite a few moves to add defensive line depth, speed and power during free agency, and they likely will make additional moves in that vein during the 2024 NFL Draft.

Key signings such as Leonard Floyd, Yetur Gross-Matos, Maliek Collins and Jordan Elliott show San Francisco hasn't changed its top defensive priority — getting after the quarterback.

Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave still are on the roster and will be key components in 2024, but the 49ers will be without Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell, Javon Kinlaw, Randy Gregory and Chase Young, all of whom departed in free agency. And while the 49ers' defense recorded 48 sacks, 122 quarterback hits, 80 tackles for a loss and 22 interceptions last season, they didn't rank as high in most defensive metrics as they have in past years.

Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek will look for more production from younger players such as Drake Jackson, whose sophomore season ended early because of injury. Kalia Davis and Robert Beal Jr. also can show their potential after slower starts to their respective NFL careers.

Adding youth through the draft not only will add an element of competition, but it will help the 49ers' future with a balanced amount of developing talent.

Here are four defensive linemen the 49ers could target in the early rounds of the NFL draft with potential to immediately contribute.

Chop Robinson

School: Penn State
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 254 pounds

Robinson is's sixth-ranked edge rusher and No. 43 overall prospect after his two final seasons at Penn State. The edge defender racked up eight sacks, 14 hits and 52 hurries in 22 games. analyst Daniel Jeremiah had the 49ers selecting Robinson No. 31 overall in his latest mock draft, adding that he has the best “get off” in the draft class.

Robinson has some rough edges in his technique, according to other analysts such as's Lance Zierlein, but he's also known for being coachable, and his athletic abilities likely will make him a late first-round pick.

Jonah Elliss

School: Utah
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 248 pounds

Elliss was productive in his three seasons at Utah, but he took a leap in 2023, with 13 sacks, two hits and 24 hurries in 10 games, boosting him into a first-round projection.

PFF has Elliss ranked No. 4 among edge rushers and No. 37 overall, which could line up perfectly with the 49ers' first-round pick. Zierlein, though, has the former Ute projected all the way down in the third round, where the 49ers have the No. 94 pick.

Much of the critique on Elliss concerns his lack of length and super body strength to hold down the edges, but working with an NFL nutrition program and training staff definitely should help.

Adisa Isaac

School: Penn State
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 247 pounds

Isaac, like Robinson, is a Penn State product who likely will flourish in the NFL, and recorded 13 sacks, 12 hits and 44 hurries in 26 games. Isaac has more length than Ellis but similarly has been knocked over a need to gain weight and strength to really see pro success .

Isaac is PFF’s fifth-ranked edge rusher and No. 39 overall prospect, and has been projected to be drafted anywhere from the late first round to the third.

Maybe even more enticing for 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan is Isaac being a team captain during his tenure at Penn State, as was current San Francisco safety Ji’Ayir Brown.

Bralen Trice

School: Washington
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 245 pounds

Trice had significant playing time during his three seasons at Washington, with consistent productivity in 2022 and 2023. He racked up 17 sacks, 34 hits and 99 hurries in 28 games, and earned a 90.8 pass-rush grade from last season.

Trice is a former team captain who has shown consistent effort, which contributed to him being named the Huskies' defensive player of the year in 2023. The first-team All-Pac-12 lineman already has the size and strength needed for the NFL.

Trice is PFF’s 15th-ranked edge rusher and No. 101 overall prospect, and is slated to be selected before the end of the second round. If he does fall into the 49ers' lap at No. 63, there's no reason they shouldn’t make the call.

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